TODAY | February 25, 2013
>>> on september 15th , 1963 that started as a normal sunday morning but in a deadly burst of dynamite it became a sechlt minal day. four young girls were killed in the bombing. surviving the bombing, featured in a new documentary "march to justice."
>> i heard the rumble of the thunder and an explosion. i heard the glass come crashing in and someone said " hit the floor ." and right here i fell on the floor. everyone in the church just fell on the floor. and it was deathly quiet.
>> reverend carol mckinstry joins us this morning. so good to see you.
>> thank you.
>> the 50th anniversary of this bombing comes up in september this year. how vivid are your memories half a century later?
>> the memories are very clear in my mind. it was as if it were yesterday.
>> what do you remember about those little girls? three of them age 13, one of them only 11. can you tell us a little bit about them?
>> yes. what i remember most was that they were laughing and combing hair. my last visit of them when i passed the bathroom. i was very close to all of them. denise's dad taught me in ninth grade. we were close to these families. we were intimately involved in the families and the children. and we were excited that day. we had a club meeting that would have taken place after church. so that's my last memory, just seeing them there, combing their hair, excited about all that the day was holding. it was also youth day .
>> it was youth day which meant you and those other girls were sort of running the service that morning.
>> that's why there were so many little girls close to where that bomb exploded. you know, being there in 1963 , you felt the fire hoses . part of your home was damaged from a bombing across the street from your house. can you describe the climate in birmingham in 1963 for people who weren't there, weren't alive or just don't know the history as well?
>> well, this was a very dark and difficult time. it was described by many as a place of hard core resistance. but primarily i saw it as a city that had a lot of patriots and because of that, we witnessed these bombings, all types of other crimes against people that were very frightening. it was a frightening time if you were a young person growing up because you never knew what the day would bring. sometimes i would tell people that bombing was a way of life in birmingham. the church bombing was just one of many. in fact, the records say 80 bombings had occurred by the time we had the church bombing. but we had become used to the sound. when we heard it, we knew what it was. and it was a way of life . it was very frightening and so forth, but the memories are still there.
>> and that day with his a catalyst nationally. the civil rights act passed the next year. what did it mean to your life personally? how did it shape the path your life took from that moment forward?
>> this represented a very pivotal point not only in the life of our city and nation but for me as well. i think it was the point at which i decided, as best you can at 15, 16, but in later years it would be something that i would never forget. but it was a pivotal point in that i decided that i would try to do as much as i could to change the world , to show that we could accomplish so much more with love and kindness than with the hatred.
>> the film is great and it's important. and i'm so grateful you're here to share the story of those four little girls. thank you. reverend